Three '69 Met stars still pitching; Dempsey guards hitting secrets
Sixteen years after the New York Mets won the 1969 National League pennant and the World Series with a pitching staff anchored by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and also featuring a young fireballer named Nolan Ryan, all three are still practicing their craft, although with different teams. Seaver, the 25-game-winning ace of that Met staff, still works the corners of home plate with slide-rule efficiency. He's with the Chicago White Sox now, and is coming up on 300 lifetime victories.
Koosman, that rare brand of left-hander who has such good stuff that he can come inside on a right-handed batter and not get hurt, was the No. 2 man behind Seaver in '69 with 17 regular-season victories and two more in the World series. He works for the Philadelphia Phillies now, and will soon have pitched 4,000 innings.
Ryan, a second-year man who alternated between the bullpen and spot starting assignments, was 6-3 for those Mets and won an important game in the playoffs. Now with the Houston Astros in the latter stages of a great career, he is the all-time major league strikeout king.
Because of trades and other variables peculiar to baseball, Ryan, has never pitched against either of his ex-teammates. However, Seaver and Koosman have faced each other twice and split.
Somewhere up the road all three should be accorded the honor of going into baseball's Hall of Fame as an entry. Elsewhere around the majors
From catcher Rick Dempsey of the Baltimore Orioles, whose current RBI pace projects out to more than twice his 1984 totals, on why he won't reveal the secret of his improvement: ``If I did that, and it also worked for everyone else, games would begin to last five hours because the pitchers wouldn't be able to get anybody out.''
Future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson has said before (about 12 years ago) that he would someday like to own part of a major league franchise. Now he's saying it again. The franchise the California Angels' slugging outfielder would like to have a piece of is the Oakland A's, who are having some financial problems and for whom Reggie earlier in his career was a star for eight years.
From former Detroit Tigers 1940s mound ace Hal Newhouser, currently a scout for the Houston Astros and the only pitcher ever to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards in the American League: ``The hardest pitch to teach is the changeup because of the high amount of coordination that's necessary between the body and the arm. The pitch has to look like a fastball to the hitter; otherwise it's not going to upset his timing and throw him off stride. A lot of good pitchers, even after they have been given the mechanics, never really learn to throw the changeup effectively.''
University of Southern California baseball coach Rod Dedeaux on his former power hitting first baseman Mark McGwire, who was on the US Olympic team last year and is now playing in Oakland's minor league system: ``Don't look for a lot of power, runs-batted-in, or high average from McGwire right away. It's always going to take a free-swinging rookie longer to adjust to better pitching than a kid who hits line drives. I also understand that the Oakland organization has converted Mark to third base and that's OK because he has all the physical tools for the job. But defensively McGwire is a major league first baseman right now. In addition, because his arm is so strong, I also believe that Mark could be taught to pitch effectively in the big leagues.''